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Chrysler 2013-2018 product slideWhen the 2016 Town & Country comes to Chrysler dealerships, it will sport something no production minivan has ever had: a plug. That was on bit of news hidden in the massive Fiat Chrysler (FCA) product preview held in Detroit on Tuesday. All FCA would say about the minivan was that the Town & Country PHEV would get 75 MPGe.

We know from the product preview slide (click to enlarge) that there are actually two plug-in hybrids coming from FCA. The minivan and a "full-size crossover," due in 2017. While that could describe the next-gen Dodge Journey, it could also be a brand new peoplemover. All FCA said officially was that it will be a "new vehicle or renewal of existing nameplate," which seems like an awful broad definition. We were curious to know more about these products, so we asked FCA spokesman Eric Mayne. Sadly, he was less than forthcoming, telling AutoblogGreen, "I can only refer you back to the presentations in which the PHEV is mentioned. If the answers aren't there, you'll have to wait."

There are actually two plug-in hybrids coming from FCA.

Well, sure, for actual facts we'll have to wait, but we can still speculate and look into the archives to see what plug-in vehicle technology FCA has offered in the past. Chrysler had an electric vehicle working group called ENVI that created products like an all-electric minivan for the US Postal Service (pictured). ENVI was disbanded in 2009. At the time, the company said plug-in vehicle work would continue, and since then we saw PHEV minivan and PHEV truck test programs from Chrysler and Ram. In early 2012, Chrysler started testing a small, 25-unit fleet of plug-in hybrid-electric Town & Country minivans with the city of Auburn Hills, MI, where the company is located. The $26-million demonstration project was funded in part by the US Department of Energy, which covered $10 million. The stated plan was for those minivans to each hit at least 16,800 miles over two years, but there were hiccups. In September 2012, for example, the liquid-cooled 12.1-kWh batteries from were found to overheat. Those batteries came from Electrovaya and were mated to a 3.6-liter Pentastar engine that could burn E85. Will any of this make it into the production Town & Country PHEV? No idea, but now we know where the company's coming from. FCA also has some EV experience with the Fiat 500e.

Fiat 500e

Chrysler says electrification has been over-blown by the media.

Despite the 500e being a hoot to drive, FCA is not a big fan of electric drive technology, saying that the only reason EVs exist at all is because meanies like the state of California are forcing them to market. The company said, "Electrification has been over-blown by the media. With the exception of a relatively small group of early adopters, the market continues to be primarily driven by regulatory requirements." In other words, don't expect a huge PHEV push once the minivan comes to market. FCA also doesn't like hydrogen as an energy carrier, since fuel cells are, "not commercially viable for mainstream automobiles."

That leaves standard hybrids as a way for FCA to reach the stricter upcoming fuel economy regulations. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said that the company's upcoming mild hybrids (no word on which cars) would use a "belt-driven generator" system. That means mild hybrids, which often can not move a car on electric power for very far and have not been particularly popular segment. Green Car Reports says that FCA is also still buying itself time by snapping up emissions credits from other automakers.

There was one more bit of minivan news from the news barrage yesterday. We heard that FCA would be killing off the Dodge Caravan name, but it's not as cut and dry as all that. When asked if the name "Chrysler Caravan" could be used, Marchionne said it was possible.


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  • 22 Comments
      Danielus
      • 8 Months Ago
      wont the full size chrysler SUV, full size jeep suv (grand wagoneer) and full size dodge durango clash? and the dodge journey, its not full size? "The minivan and a "full-size crossover," due in 2017. While that could describe the next-gen Dodge Journey, it could also be a brand new peoplemover." can anyone shine some light for me on that ?
        southpawxj
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Danielus
        Durango - Muscle SUV Grand Wagoneer - Off Road/Luxury SUV Full Size Crossover (Town & Country?) - Mainstream CUV Dodge will still be street-aggressive, Jeep will still be off-road oriented, and Chrysler will now be the mainstream brand. Jeep is also capable of "affordable" (relatively speaking) luxury.
      HVH20
      • 8 Months Ago
      I saw another article over at Wards Auto that called out their 48V mild hybrid system. The PHEV minivan will get exceptional mileage in the soccer mom drive cycler. Putting around town monday through friday and going on a weekend trip somewhere. No range anxiety for emergencies and 95% of the time the ICE never even turns on. While we are speculating, Chrysler has historically put large engines in small cars. The same mentality seems to be carried over to the 500e so I can only hope the minivan and upcoming full size CUV's carry on the tradition. Its probably only a 15-20 mile AER like the Ford/Toyota plug-ins since it takes even more battery to push this size vehicle around.
        Spec
        • 8 Months Ago
        @HVH20
        Yeah, if they can get 30 miles on electric for the Mini-van (that should be do-able), then soccer mom driving schedule should rarely ever need gas.
      gslippy
      • 8 Months Ago
      FCA is right about hydrogen (unviable), but wrong about EVs. While claiming EVs are unviable, I think they're really ceding the market to Nissan and Tesla. As for the intriguing plug-in minivan - expect it to cost $50k+. Is that what people really want? I also have doubts about 75 MPGe, but that fuel savings would factor big in justifying the purchase, especially since minivans have gotten 15-25 mpg since the 80s.
        • 8 Months Ago
        @gslippy
        I would disagree gslippy. H2 is coming whether you would be able to recognize it or not. Hawaii will be the first state to convert. Toyota just invested $50mm yesterday in H2 refueling stations in California and has a coal gasification plant in the works. Toyota's FCEV comes to market next year. Honda already has an FCEV on the market and has teamed with GM to jointly produce. California will start the infrastructure and soon LA will be smog free. Anyone who is not on board with H2 is going to lose. Think about this gslippy: there has never been a vehicle on the road that has not run on H2. Oil, Coal, wood, gasoline, methane, all have H2 as their active ingredient. There has never been a fuel we have used without H2 as the active ingredient. The technology is moving a breakneck pace now. All vehicles will be powered by modern solar (i.e. H20 to H2 via solar panels) soon. Antique solar (i.e. oil & coal which used natural leaves as solar panels millions of years ago) will be going away. It's always been H2. To say H2 is unviable is to say there has never been an automobile before. Remember, the first vehicles ever produced in the early 20th century ran on H2 rich wood gas from firewood (there was no such thing as gasoline back then - just H2). Not only is H2 not unviable, it's the only viable way. Expect most H2 for the first 50 years or so to come from CH4 and coal gasification. By then, the infrastructure should be in place for H2 from water. Whether you would believe it or not makes no difference. H2 is here to stay until humans become extinct. The first element. The simplest element. The simplest solution.
      Grimace73
      • 8 Months Ago
      What happened? I think I must have nodded off while reading the title to this article.
      • 3 Months Ago
      Or the Toyota Alphard http://www.drivingthenation.com/lou-ann-hammond/toyota-alphard-hybrid-at-the-2013-toyota-hybrid-world-tour/
      SublimeKnight
      • 8 Months Ago
      Would be tempted by this to replace our Odyssey. My wife puts a ton of mile on our van, but 15 miles at a time. A plug in minivan makes a lot of sense IMHO.
      SteveG
      • 8 Months Ago
      For the post office this should be a no brainer. Those vehicles spend an insane amount of time idling.
        Spec
        • 8 Months Ago
        @SteveG
        I think the post office is a bit gunshy because the did a study a while back wherein they had some government contractor do a crappy job of retrofitting some of their old Grumman vehicles with lead-acid batteries. There were several issues and it did not go well. But I think if they bought off-the-shelf eNV-200s or these Chrysler PHEVs, it would work much better.
      Spec
      • 8 Months Ago
      You know what the DoE, EPA, and USPS should do? Do a project where they put solar PV panels on most post offices and replace their delivery vehicles with electric delivery vans. Have Nissan build the e-NV-200 in Smyrna, TN. This would create jobs, reduce pollution, eliminate much of the fuel bill for the USPS, eliminate the electricity bill for much of the USPS, reduce oil imports, etc. Win-win-win.
        Avinash Machado
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Spec
        Great idea.
        SublimeKnight
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Spec
        Here's how this would play out. The vehicle would have to be an open bid. A senator's friend who doesn't know the difference between AC and DC would win the contract. The van would come in at 3x the estimate, if it gets delivered at all. The solar panels would be spec'd out to require some amount of impact resistance that eliminates everything currently on the market. They too will turn out to cost 3x the estimate, which was already 3x the market rate for panels. It's a great idea, that I have zero confidence our government could pull off. Fedex? UPS? They'll probably have this setup deployed to 15% or more of their fleet next year.
          Spec
          • 8 Months Ago
          @SublimeKnight
          There is such a weird blind-faith ideology by many that anything the government does is bad. But it just is not true. They do many good things and many bad things. Medicare is much more efficient than private health insurance. Private corporations also do many good things and many bad things . . . heck, they go bankrupt all the time. If you think everything the government does is bad then guess what . . . you think our military is completely incompetent. I don't agree . . . I view them as the best fighting force on the planet.
      CruzControl
      • 8 Months Ago
      Smart move. I believe Sergio will revive the Pacifica nameplate for their 2017 full size crossover. A plug in option would be a valuable trump card in the mainstream crossover group. Many luxury players are already gearing up for the release of their suv plug-in . (BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne)
      Levine Levine
      • 8 Months Ago
      Market studies have shown majority of Chrysler's customers comes from the Blue-collar demographic. As a Blue-collar brand owned by Fiat, Chrysler has lost its appeal to working class that prize nationalism, patriotism, and parochialism. Chrysler acquired the Jeep Division from AMC because of this demographic, while jettisoned its luxury Imperial Division. As foreign and domestic brands continues to offer 4x trucks and SUV, Chrysler's market share will dwindled. As a Johnny-come-lately in the EV, Hybrid, and Plug-in market, Chrysler's days are numbered as a viable auto maker. Once Fiat burns through the $25billion US taxpayer bailout of Chrysler, Chrysler will be put on the auction block.
        Groagun
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Levine Levine
        Don't be so quick to down vote Levine. He or she has a real point. The clue in this story is Chrysler's buying spree on other manufacturers emission credits. That means only one thing for a company like FCA: they wont have the vehicles and or technology to meet fuel economy standards and CAFE in the future. They already know they're behind the curve and preparing for it.
        Spec
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Levine Levine
        Even if they screw up, it will take a while to kill off Chrysler. Jeep and Dodge are pretty strong brands.
        pickles
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Levine Levine
        Maybe Chrysler has a low-end market BUT adding a hybrid-plugin would be the express route to a higher-end demographic. Companies that add hybrid electric vehicles all seem to enjoy conquest buyers who've never owned that brand previously. Plus, hybrids tend to be bought by better educated, better-off group, This product would be a great gateway product for Chrysler.
          Levine Levine
          • 8 Months Ago
          @pickles
          Pickles: Asking customers of Chrysler to buy a Plug-in or EV is like asking them to eat sushi. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw, a real blue-collar kind of guy, was asked whether he likes sushi. His answer: Sushi? Why we call them fish bait! Customers of Chrysler like Big Iron and Big Displacement. It will takes decades for Chrysler to groom its customer to consider EV and Plug-in. By that time, Chrysler would have been sold off long ago to vulture capitalists.
      Michael Scherping
      • 8 Months Ago
      My bet is that the Dodge Journey replacement is the Dodge Caravan - in a different package, not a traditional mini-van package but something closer to the Ford Flex.
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